Concept cars have always been great attention-getters, with sales- and profit-boosting potential, so it makes sense that Virgil Exner got the nod to do the 1952, 1953, 1954 Chrysler Special and D’Elegance concept cars in the midst of Chrysler’s cash-flow crisis of the early 1950s.
First up was the Chrysler Special, which was built in two versions. The original premiered at the 1952 Paris Salon as a three-place fastback built on a cut-down New Yorker chassis (119-inch wheelbase).
As a follow-up to the K-310
, it sported similar "elements of Continental styling" – long-hood/short-deck profile, big wire wheels within full cutouts – but differed most everywhere else.
Fenderlines were squared-up knife-edge types holding slim vertical bumperettes; headlights lived in prominent thrusting pods – the grille was an inverted trapezoid with horizontal bars.
Also, bodysides curved less and combined with a low roofline for a husky "masculine" air. Though handsome, the first Chrysler Special would remain one-of-a-kind.
So, too, the second version built in 1953 for C. B. Thomas, the head of Chrysler’s Export Division, thus prompting the nickname "Thomas Special
Though similar to the 1952 car, this mounted a stock 125.5-inch New Yorker chassis and measured 10 inches longer overall (214 total). Exner used the extra length to provide what we’d now term a notchback profile, with a normal trunk and external lid, plus four/five-passenger seating. There were also various detail changes, such as outside door handles instead of solenoid-activated pushbuttons.
In one sense, the Chrysler Specials were not dead-ends, for positive public reception prompted some 400 copies of a third version in 1954. This was dubbed GS-1
, likely for "Ghia Special," though the styling was again Exner’s.
Overall appearance was somewhere between the two Specials. The main differences involved a larger and squarer grille, reshaped roof and fenderlines, and stock 1954 New Yorker bumpers.
All GS-1s carried the by-then familiar 331 Hemi V-8, linked to Chrysler’s new fully automatic two-speed PowerFlite transmission. Sales were handled by Société France Motors, Chrysler’s French distributor.